14 January 2010

Haiti's agony

If ever a country had more than its fair share of trials, it's Haiti. Early estimates of those who've died, according to vesti.ru, are already at 50,000, with countless more injured, homeless, and in desperate grief. Many of us observers are also grieving, some report simply being numb. For some observers and bloggers, the agonized questions boil down to this: "Why, God? Where are you?"

I see that my own emotions go back and forth. Part of me simply grieves. Part of me tries to pray my way through the day--for example, when I made myself a cheese sandwich, it became a prayer for those waiting, waiting, waiting for some food and meds in the earthquake zone. And part of me kept prodding the rest of me: stay in the game. Don't give in to despair. Statistically, it's still one death per person, despite the spiked and unjust mortality rate; the only thing you can do for those still alive and in distress is keep your wits about you, pray, contribute (in our case, to Mennonite Central Committee), and advocate the hell out of injustice.

I was strengthened in that direction by two helpful blog posts. Rachel Held Evans bluntly states, "We already failed Haiti." She explains (the emphases are hers):
These people have been living in abject poverty right under our nose—less than 700 miles from our shore.

While we spent millions on weight-loss pills, our neighbors were dying of hunger. While we bemoaned the fall of our inflated financial institutions, our neighbors were struggling to find shelter for the night. While we filled our homes with Christmas presents in celebration of Christ's incarnation, our neighbors watched their children slip away into despondency, as hunger and sickness overcame their little bodies.

Christians love to debate whether homosexuality is a sin and if gays should be allowed to marry. Perhaps it is time to debate whether such gross inequity is a sin and if we should allow ourselves to continue to grow richer while our neighbors are so poor.

. . .

In Richard Stearns’ excellent book, The Hole in Our Gospel, the president of World Vision explained, “It is not our fault that people are poor, but it is our responsibility to do something about it.”
This line of reasoning is not a way to distract the honest theologian from the dilemma of God's role or God's apparent absence, but it does confront us with our responsibility. What if God's provision for global poverty and injustice is a wealthy, unselfish, and prophetic church? (I put the prophetic element in because statistically, American Christians are amazingly generous, but how much is naively misdirected?)

In "Haiti--Where was God," my second helpful reading, Ben Witherington reasons, in part, along the same lines as Evans:
. . . We have known about these problems in our own backyard for decades. For decades now the U.S. would rather throw good money after bad on military adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere when in fact with a fraction of what we have spent in the last decade on war the entire country of Haiti could have been rebuilt and given decent housing!! Yes its true. And these are our backdoor neighbors. But of course they do not have oil and other commodities to offer us, so we as a nation have largely ignored them and their cries for help, hoping that the piecemeal efforts of small U.N. and Christian agencies would pick up the slack----which they have been unable to do, so overwhelmed have they been by the grinding indigenous poverty and needs of that whole country, not to mention governmental corruption over many decades.
The reason I don't get all righteous at God when disaster happens is that I'm afraid God might wonder out loud why my priorities were so conveniently oriented around myself. "The poor you will always have with you"--not to mention earthquakes, floods, famines, windstorms, collapsing Towers of Siloam; how can I pretend to be surprised?


Quaker connections with Haiti include eight or more Friends churches associated with Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region; the decades-long work of Christian Service International in Haiti; and many individual links--thanks to Raelene Fendall for this specific example, Jean and Joy Thomas and the Haiti Christian Development Fund. (Friday PS: We hear that Tim and Ann Kendall with Global Outreach are also OK.) Many meetings in Northwest Yearly Meeting, including ours (Reedwood) plan to make a special collection for Haiti this coming Sunday, responding to this call.

Remembering George Willoughby.

The enduring theme of the Great White Hope (Avatar, for example)--David Brooks; Soong-Chan Rah.

Wrestling with "the least of these" in Matthew 25: Is Chaplain Mike sharpening his interpretation, or safely spiritualizing it?

Evangelizing Tiger Woods on national television, and the backlash--two viewpoints: Ross Douthat. Martin E. Marty. Meanwhile, not a moment too soon: some hints about a forthcoming book on ethics and evangelism.

Second thoughts on the Nigerian Christmas bomber: Why didn't he use the toilet? And: How to lose Nigeria and alienate Africa.

Fascinating interview with Stephen Kotkin, author of Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment. (Thank you, Sean.)

Jean-Rene Ella, "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues"

No comments: